1. Evaluate competitive messages. Your first step is to gather and evaluate the marketing materials of your chief competitors, including their ads, brochures and website content. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of “me too” marketing. There’s simply a lot of bad marketing out there, and the fact that many of your competitors have no differentiation strategy will work to your advantage.
At least some of your competitors–usually the category leaders–will make promises that resonate with their target audiences. Carefully review the benefit statements your competitors make, and determine what claims set them apart.
2. Find what makes you unique. For a company wide differentiation strategy, consider what separates you from the competitors you’ve evaluated. Whether you market a product or operate a service business, such as an accounting firm or a power-washing company, it’s essential to clearly differentiate through your marketing how what you offer is of unique value.
Your point of differentiation may relate to the way your product or service is provided, priced or even delivered. The most important thing to discover is the principal benefit you offer that is uniquely valuable to customers and gives you a competitive advantage.
3. Tell the world. Your next step is to create a new marketing message that communicates your product or service’s unique value. This message should become the core of your entire marketing campaign. To successfully gain a competitive advantage, consistently drive this point of differentiation home until it becomes integral to your brand image.
For example, through its slogan, Maxwell House communicates that its coffee will always taste good, not bitter, down to the very bottom of the pot. When repeatedly communicated through ongoing marketing, it’s this assertion about being “Good to the last drop” that differentiates the product and has helped make it successful over the years.
4. Keep your promise. Effective differentiation has everything to do with customer satisfaction, which builds loyalty and often trumps price as a primary consideration of consumers. As long as your company can sustain its ability to differentiate in a way that consistently meets consumer expectations, customers may reject lower-cost competitors in favor of what you have to offer.
5. Cut down on your treatment offerings. It is confusing to the client to have 12 facial treatments, 14 massage choices and a “War and Peace” style of menu to sort through. Furthermore, your technicians won’t master the various steps to each treatment. Finally, the retail sale will be lost in the collective confusion.
6. Don’t abuse the top 20 of your clients that are loyal, consistent and wonderful word-of-mouth marketers for your brand. These VIP’s often become too regular and instead of being treated like the gems they are, they are abused, neglected, ignored and taken for granted. Some spas give these clients special colored robes to indicate their status at the spa. Many gift these clients with sample kits or a full-sized product with each visit. If that sounds expensive, try it on your top ten clients and watch the referrals role in.
The bottom line is that customers see the value of what’s offered. Rather than go elsewhere for a similar product or service at a lower price, they’ll stay loyal because of the “intangibles.” Losing customers is as simple as a disconnect on a promise or a lengthy “on hold” wait to simply book an appointment or ask a question.